Holistic Care: 22 years in 500 words
By Christie Keith
April 12, 2008
Once upon a time, I had a cat who suffered from flea allergies. He’d been on steroids for ten years, had tumors in his ears, and spent the late summer hairless and covered in scabs.
I was browsing in the book section of a pet supply store, and opened Dr. Pictairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. “We need to look at the whole picture of an illness and find therapies that will work with the whole body – not against it – in the healing process,” I read. “To me, that is what constitutes a true cure. I often use the term ‘holistic’ to describe this approach to medicine. Unlike many who use the word, I do not equate it with ‘natural’, for it is certainly possible to use natural methods such as herbs, vitamins, and exercise but still fail to see the overall picture of what is happening.”
What is needed, he said, “Is an entirely new understanding, not just the substitution of a vitamin for an antibiotic, or a mineral for a hormone.”
I changed my cat’s diet to one of the homemade recipes in Dr. Pitcairn’s book, and he never itched again. Then I switched my other cats, and began an exploration of natural and holistic medicine that’s lasted until today.
Which is why it comes as such a shock to so many of my holistic brethren when I go on one of my semi-patented diatribes against people who won’t do diagnostic testing or use antibiotics. “Christie,” they mutter darkly, “isn’t holistic enough.”
But you know what? I think I’m more holistic than they are. Because holistic isn’t about the substances you use; it’s about how you think.
It’s about looking at the whole animal and his or her whole environment, genetics, and lifestyle. It’s about making the best, most informed decision possible using all available resources, the one that relieves suffering and illness without doing harm. Balancing risk and benefit. Not seeing the animal as a collection of parts, but as a living creature in a dynamic environment.
And no, it’s not always easy, but with practice and knowledge it becomes easier. You learn to stretch your mind and stop mindlessly applying band aids to gaping wounds, be those band aids an herb or an antibiotic. You learn to stop dismissing a modality out of hand just because it doesn’t fit in with your preconceived notions.
Don’t get me wrong. Skepticism is good. In fact, when you start talking to the snake oil salesmen from Big Pharma and the herbal supplement industry, I’d say it’s essential. But knee-jerk skepticism is bad. Making your mind up and shutting out new information, new evidence, and facts you don’t like? Very, very bad.
Herbert Spencer once said, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
That principle works both ways.
*note the Holistic Club's fancy new logo, created by a fantastic local designer- but hey, I'm biased ;-)